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Go Back   Bimmerfest - BMW Forums > BMW Model Discussions > 3 Series / 4 Series > E36 (1991 - 1999)

E36 (1991 - 1999)
The E36 chassis 3-Series BMW was a huge hit among driving enthusiasts from the first moment the car hit the pavement. The E36 won numerous awards over the years it was produced and is still a favorite of many BMW enthusiasts to this day! -- View the E36 Wiki

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  #1  
Old 12-10-2012, 01:48 PM
BrianNY318i BrianNY318i is offline
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OBD II scanner 1997 318i

Greetings....I am on a budget so I figured I would ask if there is a big difference in scanners. I can grab a basic code reader for under $60. What about that? The check engine light came on (150K). The car runs smooth as can be, but I need to pin point the issue as I have low funds and must fix it myself.....I can only assume O2 sensor or cat....Thanks for any help y'all throw my way...
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  #2  
Old 12-10-2012, 01:51 PM
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ZeGerman ZeGerman is offline
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In most states you can have your car scanned for free at any big-box auto parts store (Autozone, Advance, etc.).

Generic code readers will get you the basic codes, but not BMW specific fault codes.
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  #3  
Old 12-10-2012, 01:53 PM
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Amazon has simple read and erase scanners for $20 by Autel.

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  #4  
Old 12-10-2012, 02:50 PM
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drivinfaster drivinfaster is offline
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don't confuse 'code reader' with scanner (scan tool). they are totally different.

obd2 requirements state that a device should be able to do the following:

access fault code(s)

access freez-frame data for most current code

show readiness monitors

clear fault codes


this falls into the basic parameters of a 'code reader'.

these are cheap, and pretty much do what you can get done for free @ auto zone...

better units will have live data. how accurate that live data will be depends on the rate at which the manufacturer has designed (be it the device maker, or the car maker...)

my advice it to get the best model that you can afford, with the most features that you will be able to use (do not know your actual diy skill level, so i will leave that up to you....), and get that one. or the next one up.

remember, this is obd2 stuff, so *any* car made and sold in the us after 1996 will be compatable.

i myself find the code reader devices useless beyond their simple task, and, after having used devices like snap on modus, and fords ngs, i have *got* to have something that does more than give me codes. but that is me.




df
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Old 12-10-2012, 03:09 PM
BrianNY318i BrianNY318i is offline
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Thanks for the ideas....I am right in the middle of two large cities (50 miles away from each) and can't really afford an authorized BMW shop. I have a full set of tools and can swing wrenches PDG. My truck is ODBI so I never bothered with a code reader. So even if I get one I won't get any data that helps me? I have the list of codes for the year and series. Is there any other options I can try? Like I said, the car runs great but the light is on and I need an inspection this month....sux to be me...

Added...
I see a code reader and clearing tool for twenty on eBay.....I thought of going to Advance or the Zone, but I hear lots of repair shops whining so I wasn't sure if they still did it...

Last edited by BrianNY318i; 12-10-2012 at 03:16 PM.
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  #6  
Old 12-10-2012, 03:44 PM
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drivinfaster drivinfaster is offline
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they will pull the codes, but that's about it. they do not do any diagnostics. there are a lot of shops that will actually read the codes for you as well, but will not include diagnostics unless you pay for it.

pretty much a code reader will give you codes, ff data, and reset the light. some better ones will give you an idea as to what *could* be the problem, but then that could lead to a lot of throwing of parts at the car without actually fixing the problem.

a scan tool will let you 'see' things like voltages (actual parameters) and values (processed data) to be able to better assess the malfunction.

for instance, a scanner will read o2 sensor voltages, a code reader will not. this means that you will either have to guess that the sensor is not working because the code 'says so'. whereas a scan tool will show you (depending again on sample rate) what is going on *when* it is going on.

a quick and easy way to tell the sample rate is sufficient is to snap the throttle. the faster the rpm reads, the better. that indicates the sample rate.

i have worked with oe scan tools that would be back @ idle *before* the rpm was reflected on the screen.... it's a wonder we even were able to 'fix' these cars....it was the way the software was, though, and there were no other real options at that time. ond yes, it was an obd2 compliant vehicle...





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  #7  
Old 12-11-2012, 06:56 AM
SCJon SCJon is offline
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Originally Posted by drivinfaster View Post
they will pull the codes, but that's about it. they do not do any diagnostics. there are a lot of shops that will actually read the codes for you as well, but will not include diagnostics unless you pay for it.

pretty much a code reader will give you codes, ff data, and reset the light. some better ones will give you an idea as to what *could* be the problem, but then that could lead to a lot of throwing of parts at the car without actually fixing the problem.

a scan tool will let you 'see' things like voltages (actual parameters) and values (processed data) to be able to better assess the malfunction.

for instance, a scanner will read o2 sensor voltages, a code reader will not. this means that you will either have to guess that the sensor is not working because the code 'says so'. whereas a scan tool will show you (depending again on sample rate) what is going on *when* it is going on.

a quick and easy way to tell the sample rate is sufficient is to snap the throttle. the faster the rpm reads, the better. that indicates the sample rate.

i have worked with oe scan tools that would be back @ idle *before* the rpm was reflected on the screen.... it's a wonder we even were able to 'fix' these cars....it was the way the software was, though, and there were no other real options at that time. ond yes, it was an obd2 compliant vehicle...





df
I'm curious as to your opinion about the Peake Code readers. One came with my car and I notice the codes that come from it are not the BMW specific fault codes. I guess I mean when I get the code the Peake gave me, it refers only to the chart in their manual. Is that an accurate representation of what is actually going on, or is it acting merely as a translator from BMW specific to an easier to read table? It's my first code reader and I just want to make sure if I make a post where I'm stumped and refer to the code and not making some kind of rookie mistake by using that reader.

BTW I searched the forum for this thread and feel pretty good about myself for it. Thanks BMW-Mania!
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  #8  
Old 12-11-2012, 04:49 PM
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drivinfaster drivinfaster is offline
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peake sees to be quite accurate, and lots of good reviews on the forum for them. the only thing that i don't like about them is there are specific tools for abs, srs, and mil reading. there is no 'all in one', which i would love to see.




df
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  #9  
Old 12-11-2012, 08:12 PM
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dc_wright dc_wright is offline
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If you have one of the big box parts stores near you, go get the codes read. They don't charge anything and while it's true they won't give you the so called "BMW specific" codes a lot of the codes are generic and the failure modes listed are pretty clear. A good example is with my car. Last Tuesday night when I started it up it sputtered and I immediately got a CEL. Got the codes pulled at Autozone and the code equated to cam position sensor failure. A visual of the wiring showed no breaks or connections pulled loose so it was pretty certain it was a bad sensor. Sensor replaced, CEL fixed. Some parts (like O2 sensors) can have multiple failure modes reported so you may have to do some added investigation to get to root cause, but at least you've got some guidance as to what the heck caused the CEL to light up.
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  #10  
Old 12-13-2012, 04:39 PM
BrianNY318i BrianNY318i is offline
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I thank everyone for their help....funny story. My wife, who drives the car the most. Got a different brand of gas today. The car purrs smoother and the check engine light is gone. The crappy fuel must have choked the O2 sensor, but now the car is running great. Just thought I'd mention it in case someone else gets a CEL out of the blue....happy holidays
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